Monday, November 29, 2010
As a trained journalist, I spend lots of time enjoying various columns and even analyzing the language and imagery used in advertisements. So I couldn't have been more surprised when my reading was interrupted ... halted actually ... by a challenge in the local "weekender" insert. Seems a culinary contributor was suggesting that anyone with holiday baking to do should find a favorite cookie recipe and "jazz it up" by adding 1/2 cup of more of crushed pretzels ... any brand ... to the list of ingredients. The verbally-smirking baker felt that anyone who did so would be amazed at how different and revitalized their cookies would be.
What the hell, I mused and but down my paper to retrieve a notepad and pen. I'm not much of a baker or cookie maestro, but I was heading to the store anyway so I decided to put on the oven mitts/boxing gloves and take up the challenge. Whose "cookies" didn't need an occasional nip and tuck?
In a green plastic recipe box, I have handwritten gems from both my mother and my grandmother ... champion-level cooks in their time on earth. I considered my Grandma's classic peanut butter cookie recipe and my Mom's awesome oatmeal raisin bars, but opted for a 3C cookie ... Chocolate Chunk Chip. I jotted down the needed items and a few necessities of my own.
A few hours later, I had about four dozen cooling cookies that looked a bit more coarse than I remembered. Breaking one in half, I popped a portion into my mouth and almost had to grab the counter for physical support. The cookie morsel was warm and so dense and chewy. And the chocolate ... accented by the extra salt from the pretzels ... was so much more rich. It seemed to vibrate in my mouth, sending little shocks throughout my lymbic system. Within five minutes, six golden cookies were deceased. I found a nice airtight contained and sealed the tempting treats away to share with co-workers the next day.
So today ... around 8:30 a.m. ... I entered my department's break room and opened up the cookie equivalent of Pandora's box. Within seconds, the peers who sometimes offer me advice and constantly provide me with professional criticism were offering me other things ... kidneys, movie passes, their children, etc. ... for more cookies on Tuesday. I didn't like the looks in their eyes as they devoured the 3Cs in their sticky little hands, so I smiled weakly and retreated to my office. For a brief moment, I considered moving my credenza to block the door like in every zombie movie I'd ever seen. Of course, I left the cookies behind ... I was fleeing for my safety and they only would have encouraged pursuit. But I was kind of pissed that I didn't even get one to have with my morning java.
POINT OF RANT: Crushed pretzels ... I dare you!!
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Nielsen, the son on a Royal Canadian "Mountie" and a Welsh housewife, trained in radio and broadcast arts because of his distinct and resonant voice. Anyone you ask will remember him for his various film and TV antics over the years, but I will remember him the most as the handsome Commander John Adams from "Forbidden Planet," a groundbreaking sci-fi film from 1956 that introduced audiences to newly-developed special effects and the iconic Robby the Robot. And of course, I officially started my Nielsen "bromance" with "Airplane!" and his deadpan performance as Dr. Rumack.
When I heard the news about the silver-haired celebrity's death, I started researching his career and realized that he and my entertainment needs have intersected more times than I ever would have guessed.
His motion picture career is vast and varied from flicks like "Tammy and the Bachelor" (opposite Debbie Reynolds) and "The Poseidon Adventure" to the funny and familiar farces of "The Naked Gun" films, "Mr. Magoo," two installments of the "Scary Movie" franchise, "Superhero Movie," "Soul Man," and "The Patriot" ... just to name a few.
I also went on the Internet to see what other fans were saying and one individual summed up what was in my heart much more succinctly than I ever could. This man commented that "Nielsen had the courage to take on roles that some might have seen as goofy or trivial and made them shine like diamonds. His kind of talent is a rarity."
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
As is typical with may types of birds, the males tend to be larger and more colorful. Turkeys are also known for the unique "gobbling" sounds they produce. There is a myth that turkeys are flightless birds ... all turkeys can fly but it is an ability that, in this breed particularly, is proportionate to weight. Simply put, the big, fat turkeys we buy in the store couldn't fly because they were bred to be big and fat.
When two parties meet to discuss a business proposal, they often engage in initial pleasantries ... asking about family and leisure activities like vacations and the progress being made on a golf swing ... but when deliberations turn serious, it is often termed "talking turkey."
And for any of us with friends or family members who are ex-smokers, we have probably witnessed the explosive tempers and listless moods of someone attempting to quit an ingrained habit like tobacco "cold turkey."
POINT OF RANT: All this turkey talk is making me hungry ... I'd give my right "giblet" for some good old-fashioned stuffing instead of the stove-top crap!!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
My newest scheme is to quit my job, find a financial backer who recognizes my true genius, and create a scintillating series of "art books." My first project would be a book featuring all the courthouses of Ohio. I've travelled throughout a good portion of the state and the heavy-handed designs and materials of the older structures are truly awesome. Even some of the newer "replacement" buildings are impressive with their odd-and-unique mixture of modern elements and rural "sensibilities."
The state of Ohio became the 17th such designated entity on March 1, 1803. Carved from the Northwest Territory, Ohio derives its name from an Iroquois word ... "ohi-yo" ... meaning "great river." Indeed, Ohio is bounded on the south by the mighty waters of the Ohio River. But the state is better known for other reasons. Politically, Ohio represents a juicy morsel with 20 electoral votes and strong Democratic leanings. The "Buckeye State" has also produced seven U.S. presidents.
Ohio is often referred to as a "gateway state," meaning it links the Northeast to the Midwest. In fact, Ohio has a quantifiable uniqueness ... it is situated within a one-day drive of nearly half the U.S. population and about 70 percent of it's manufacturing and industrial resources. That is some powerful geography!!
But my interest lies in the scenery ... 44,825 square miles divided up into 88 counties. And each one seems to have a legal hub complete with slabs or granite, marble, and sandstone ... or newer angled facades with brick and chrome and glass block. Some are welcoming while others exude a foreboding feeling that is downright Gothic.
I think buildings can have such warmth and strength and even majesty while made of hard materials and cold surfaces. My book would also feature some interior photos of each courthouse as well as any early sketches or blueprints. And every featured building would have a close-up inset of the cornerstone. I really want to encourage people to take roadtrips and see the elegant edifices in person.
POINT OF RANT: I would never eat a salad or side dish served by Anne Geddes without thoroughly running my fork through it looking for rattles and "binkies!"
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Dean just smiled a Cheshire cat grin. "Buddy ... would I do that to you?! It's staying put because I know how much you enjoy losing to me and our friends!!"
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I don't wear a cape or tights (God forbid anyone is forced to witness something heinous like that!) or leap tall buildings ... short ones, for that matter ... but I do possess the super power of sensing when any type of bread or rolls or package of buns is just minutes away from molding. And then I buy them!
I swear, I could buy a loaf of rich, buttery wheat bread or that dark and zesty rye from my favorite deli as it's coming out of the oven and it will be green and fuzzy and a HAZ-MAT situation by the time I get the damn stuff out of the shopping bag and onto my ugly kitchen counter.
In the past, I felt like I might as well just take a portion of my grocery money and set it on fire. But, like a true hero, I have figured out a way to turn a bad situation into something positive and beneficial for less fortunate citizens. Well, not people actually ... ducks ... or geese ... maybe both, I'm not really sure how to tell the difference.A few blocks from my apartment is a tremendously cool community park. The place is huge with walking and bike paths, pavilion areas, fields for softball and soccer, a well-maintained swimming pool, some lighted tennis courts, and one of those gigantic playground structures that looks like something out of a sci-fi show ... all bright colors, weird angles, and ropes and slides ... and bridges and little play "bubbles" everywhere. And like any park worth its "salt," this community oasis has several lakes, ponds, and streams to add to the natural splendor. And where you have water, you have ducks ... or geese. I'm going to use the collective term gucks for the remainder of this post.
This time of year, Ohio is rapidly cooling down ... trees are mostly bare and the air is definitely chilled like a fine wine. Colors are taking on that thinner, more stark quality. And, of course, all the down jackets are moving to the front of people's closets. Better then any calendar, I am reminded of the general season every morning as I drift closer to consciousness waiting for the blare of my alarm clock. As I wrestle to keep a chokehold on my slumber, I am treated to a symphony of honks and squawks as formations of gucks fly over my building to land and "refuel" somewhere on the park's still lush grounds.
Both ducks and geese belong to the bird family Anatidae. Sometimes the name is applied to other similar-looking birds called shelducks. Regardless, scientists estimate that ducks and geese have been around in one form or another for close to 10 million years. These avians are monogamous, living as "married couples." They are very territorial during their nesting time but otherwise migrate wildly in pursuit of food and warmer temperatures. And they apparently love their starchy carbohydrates.
I have become the self-imposed champion of the local guck population. Each week or so I allot about $6 or $7 and visit a "second hand" bakery to purchase as many loaves of inexpensive bread as my funds will allow. I then strut onto the park grounds with confidence, hoping my feathered friends will welcome my altruistic persona. But alas ... in a fashion painfully similar to the video I've attached, they mock my efforts and display only the minimal amount of manners as they wolf down the proffered victuals.
But while I dislike their disdain, I must admit I do enjoy watching a "herd" of cantankerous gucks going after a small child while their nearby parent of guardian just reads from a tattered paperback or texts furiously on their cell phone, completely unaware of the impending doom. Or I can't help but chuckle a little when a couple out for a leisurely stroll is ambushed by a small army of plumed plunderers.
POINT OF RANT: If gucks can find web-footed wedded bliss, why is it so hard for the rest of us?!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Each individual also has an inner animal which corresponds to a set number of days within the year. The attributes we gain from this animal spirit are believed by the majority of Eastern philosophers and astrologers to be our true defining nature. The inner animal manifests when we are adults and is very difficult to be altered or swayed.
And then there is a primary secret animal linked to us by the hours of the day in which we were born. Secret animals give us subtle characteristics that most people only recognize once they've known us for a while. But these forces play a key role in how we develop friendships and deeper attachments.
Each animal also brings with it a focal point of yin yang (or masculinity vs femininity), the earthly elements for which we feel an affinity toward (fire, water, metal, earth, etc.), and membership in groupings called trines that further strengthen our personalities.
But Monkeys walk a fine line most of their adult lives. They enjoy being the center of attention and often seek the spotlight. In some cultures, the Monkey is also called "the Prankster," using his own humor and cleverness to gain favor with others. But Monkeys often go overboard and offend those around them or unintentionally hurt the feelings of friends, family, and co-workers.
Monkeys also have a unique "handicap" of being creatures with tons of ideas but not the best verbal skills. They often can't articulate the things in their heads and end up looking confused or unprepared. Individuals born in the Year of the Monkey often have trouble shutting down their creativity and enjoying a good night's sleep.
At their lowest, Monkeys are selfish, suspicious of others motives, and often immature.
I couldn't be any more of a Monkey if I was swinging from a vine and throwing around my fecal matter!!
My inner animal spirit ... Youshi the Rooster ... grants me superior problemsolving skills and the drive to stay organized. But the Rooster is a prideful spirit ... sometimes overconfident. He takes on lots of tasks but doesn't always have the resources to complete them adequately. And that turns the Rooster into a cuckoo!! The Rooster can easily become critical of himself and others, presenting a very abrasive facade. Roosters are truthful but blunt ... seldom a crowd pleaser. And when a Rooster sees the accomplishments of others ... things that appear to have been completed with relative ease ... he is instantly colored with jealousy.
Personally, the Monkey/Rooster double whammy is trouble. Both spirits seek the limelight ... in actions and ideas. This can cause extreme behaviors and even a sort of "spiritual war" within.
Now comes my secret animal lumbering in ... Choushi the Ox. Dependable and determined are two of this spirits greatest gifts. Oxen are very logical. We have a strong work ethic but sometimes view those who don't rather harshly. We Oxen can be stubborn and sometimes overlook good alternatives because we feel our own ideas are always best. Oxen seek several long-term friends over lots of casual acquaintances.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
And although my computer and cell phone and alarm clock seem to update themselves just fine, I have to personally adjust the timekeeping devices in my car, microwave, and stove ... not to mention the various clocks in my house and watches on my bureau. It's just a pain in the ass!!
DST was introduced in the U.S. during WWI to save energy that was needed for the war-time production of various goods. In 1966, U.S. Congress standardized the process with the Uniform Time Act. This was adjusted in 2007 with the Energy Policy Act which added four weeks to the DST period. Economists predicted that this added time to DST would result in a savings of 10,000 barrels of oil each day in the U.S. ... a premonitory statement that has yet to be proven.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The American bison (or buffalo) is part of an ancient breed of herd animal that crossed the Bering Strait some 10,000 years ago. For centuries, millions of these shaggy beasts roamed across Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. It is believed that the sheer magnitude of the early bison populations and their grazing patterns actually shaped and altered the very ecology of the entire Great Plains area of the country.
The numbers of American bison have experienced huge peaks and troughs. For centuries, many Native American tribes have hunted buffalo for their meat and hides on a regular basis, but these hunters also utilized competent population management practices, even developing unique butchering techniques to minimize waste.
In the late 1600s and early 1700s, diseases brought to this continent by European settlers began devastating Native American tribes. With fewer hunters and a reduced need for food, the buffalo herds grew like crazy. Several oral and recorded legends claim that, for several decades, herds of bison literally stretched from one horizon to the other.
But of course, modern man could not leave well enough alone. A wave of expansion westward during the 1880s brought the American bison to the brink of extinction. Hundreds of thousands of animals were reduced to only a few hundred. Settlers not only killed buffalo for food, but also to "remove the competition" for grasslands they needed to feed their own cattle and other livestock. Western influences also put firearms into the hands of Native American hunters for the first time ever, and more than 300,000 buffalo were being slaughtered annually. The railroads, too, stuck their noses into the bison "problem." It seems buffalo herds were holding up the laying or new tracks. And the migration of a large herd could actually trap a train and force it to remain motionless for days. So the rail companies hired profesional hunters to kill as many of the "nuisance beasts" as possible.
And possibly the most bizarre influence on the decline of the American buffalo population was the growth of the industrial age. With more and more factories being built in the U.S. as well as Europe, buffalo hide ... with its unique thickness and strength ... became a critical commodity because it was ideal for making the "transfer belts" that enabled manufacturers to harness the power produced by steam engines. This was all pre-electricity, mind you,
Today, through conservation methods and the dedication of animal scientists and enthusiasts, the plight of the American bison has been reversed. Depending on who you ask, buffalo number anywhere from 500,000 to 30,000. The range is so great because many naturalists discount buffalo that are raised on ranches for the specific purpose of being used as a food source.
Most buffalo ... wild or domestic ... live in states like Montana, Colorado, Utah, and the Dakotas. Very strict guidelines for breeding and hunting help maintain a strong population. However, with interbreeding with cattle ... remember the "beefalo" craze of the late '80s? ... and even buffalo from Europe and Asia, many zoologists and animal geneticists believe that there are less than 12,000 pure American bison in existence today.
My life has had several odd intersections with the modern-day bison. When I was a kid, the Columbus Zoo opened a new exhibit within the "North America" section that featured some buffalo and other Great Plains denizens. I was so excited because they were so massive looking in the books I read and I just knew that there would be "Indians" with the zoo exhibit too ... it just made sense. What I saw on that warm and smelly Saturday were several "shaggy cows" that were tired looking, extremely dusty, and appeared to have their own excrement matted all over themselves. Not really "the look" I was expecting.
During my undergrad college years, I found a local bar that was not only lax on carding its "regulars" in regards to beer guzzling, but they also had a "buffalo" pizza made with bison meat and mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk. For those of you that have never tasted buffalo cheese, it is wonderful. Apparently, bison have different digestive systems than traditional cows ... the milk is higher in proteins and fats and retains a number of minerals that create a richer taste and denser, more creamy texture. But while I couldn't get enough of the pizza, I also could not stomach to watch any of the bartender's make their trademark "Buffalo Shot," which combined Bailey's, small amounts of several flavored liquors, bourbon ... a brand called "Buffalo Trace" naturally ... and a splash of buffalo milk. It looked like a science experiment gone horribly wrong.
But I think my most fond "brush" with the burly bovid was the Christmas before my father died. He had been sick for a while and had not been able to enjoy one of his favorite passions ... hunting. In his hay day, my Dad had bagged many species of game ... deer, antelope, pheasant, quail, duck, rabbit, squirrel, and more. About 45 minutes north of Ohio is Dundee, Michigan, home to one of the Cabela mega sports outfitter centers. This place is roughly 225,000 square feet of everything you could possible need for hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, and boating ... even accessories for your RV and pricey furniture for your rustic cabin or summer home. It's such an overwhelming experience. There are exhibits and to-scale dioramas of all types of outdoor environments and wildlife. There's a 40-foot mountain dominating the middle of the store and a 65,000 gallon walk-through aquarium with indigenous fish.
I ended of getting my Dad a bunch of stuff ... a hat and fishing lures and gloves with replaceable chemical hand-warmers. And I got him eight different kinds of jerky ... venison, turkey, elk, and, of course, buffalo. I think I got an extra pound of it for me but it was gone before I had driven halfway home. That day I spent a fortune ... but mostly on lunch. Cabela's has a cafe. Luckily, I had talked two of my buddies into going with me and we overindulged and split several sandwiches and entrees ... like elk bratwurst, buffalo burgers, an ostrich club, and even an open-faced wild boar sandwich. My one friend needed to stop a few times on the way home ... to answer nature's harsh call ... and to purchase antacids. I just kept eating my jerky!
POINT OF RANT: Most days, I really miss ny Dad!